Our south of the borough correspondent, PEARL LEE, finds a controversial right-winger bending rules to grab control of a local association
Peter Morgan, the resident of east Coulsdon notorious for having been kicked out of UKIP and the Tory parties, was at the centre of further controversy over Christmas as he staged a takeover of the Coulsdon West Residents’ Association.
While other residents’ associations have managed to use Zoom and Team for virtual meetings during the covid-19 pandemic, the CWRA failed to do so.
Indeed, under influence from Morgan, its officers have refused to stage an annual meeting in 2020, at which democratic elections could be held and the association’s accounts scrutinised.
Morgan, a serial election candidate in Croydon, most commonly for far-right parties, has never won enough votes to be elected to public office during nearly 30 years of campaigning. There is no record of his ever being elected even to the committee of CWRA, with many members claiming that he is not even qualified to be a member.
Morgan – who lives at Cordrey Gardens in the area covered by ECRA, the East Coulsdon RA, on the other side of the bypass from west Coulsdon – has been inveigling his way into the CWRA since earlier this year, when the organisation somewhat unwisely gave him control of their social media platforms. They quickly regretted doing so, after Morgan used the CWRA account (508 followers) to issue a racist, Trumpian tweet about coronavirus.
Although he was reproached, Morgan was allowed to continue to use the CWRA Twitter account to pursue his own pet topics, usually centred on the interests of motorists – he is a keen member of the Alliance of Bad Drivers – and other, ill-informed matters of local politics.
Although residents’ associations like to claim to be “apolitical”, Morgan’s power grab within the CWRA is understood to have received some support from Tory ward councillors including Mario Creatura and Ian Parker.
Other members have accused Morgan of “twisting” the association’s constitution by preventing the majority of the committee from being involved in its decision-making, including excluding them from having a say on a special dispensation that allowed him to be co-opted on to the committee. “He misled people into believing he could be a member, even though he doesn’t live in the area,” one said.
On Christmas Day itself, Morgan and the CWRA’s pliant treasurer, Michael Southwell, staged their “coup”.
The CWRA Twitter account – meaning Morgan – issued a declaration claiming to have seized key positions within the association.
The tweet did not mention “committee” or “elections”, or anything as grubbily democratic as that. But, in typically Morgan-esque capital letters, it announced “Current CWRA management”.
Ousted from the elected committee were the likes of chair Lynne Rothberg – the association officer who had sanctioned Morgan for his racist tweet – and her husband David Rothberg, as well as the association’s minutes secretary, Yasmin Dubash.
Morgan and Southwell have so few supporters within the organisation that between them they allocated themselves five posts, including chair, vice chair and treasurer, with non-member Morgan putting himself in charge of membership – and therefore the full details of all the association’s residents.
A lengthy open letter of complaint has appeared on social media, addressed to the CWRA committee, but has also been sent to neighbouring RAs, councillors and the Conservative MP for Croydon South, Chris Philp.
The letter calls for an emergency meeting of CWRA to be held, virtually if necessary, where a vote of no confidence in the committee is to be held, and all before the end of January.
“We have seen that positions within the CWRA have now been appointed outside of an AGM,” they wrote, describing Morgan’s appointment as vice-chair (a position that does not exist within the CWRA rules) as “unconstitutional and cannot be recognised”.
The lack of any association meetings, and failure to stage an AGM in 2020, the letter-writers say, “has effectively removed the transparency and scrutiny” for members.
They also question the state of the accounts – unseen or approved in public for nearly two years now. “As the CWRA has failed to provide the AGM for its members, it has also failed to present audited accounts to its members. This is in clear breach of both the article of the constitution and constitutes a lack of transparency of public and member funds usage.
“We charge that the CWRA is in breach of good governance guidelines for an Association and is open to financial mismanagement.”
The letter also complains that Morgan has effectively taken over the CWRA for his own ends, without reference to the interests of the membership. “None of the recent campaigns or focus seems to have been directed by majority indication by members, but by selected members of the committee. This is unconstitutional,” they wrote.
“In recent months we have seen a single ‘voice’ of the CWRA in Coulsdon. This… seems to be focused on a circular theme or subject of cars or roads. There have been no public statements for example regarding planning issues, local business issues, transport or Croydon Council being declared bankrupt.
“We find it curious that with far more pressing and relevant matters for the residents’ association to consider and represent, its public stance seems to be a road users lobby platform.”
As a result, the protesters, including several former committee members of long-standing, have demanded an urgent Extraordinary General Meeting, to be held not later than January 31, and with 30 days’ notice of any candidates for election to the committee. The protesters also want a motion of no confidence to be held at the EGM – and that if that vote is lost by Morgan and Southwell, they and the members of their committee should be removed with immediate effect.
“I joined CWRA essentially so I could help residents and get involved with the community,” one told Inside Croydon.
“To be honest, I am appalled by what is going on.”
Morgan’s response? He’s been on Twitter again, using the CWRA account, of course, on Bank Holiday Monday, once again typing away furiously, often with his caps lock on.
He’s clearly gerrymandering, hoping to bring in many new members, even from outside the CWRA area, just in time for them to support him and Southwell at the EGM.
“CWRA welcomes new members,” Morgan tweeted yesterday. According to this Morgan-instigated recruitment drive, residents within the accepted area (described by the association rules as “all Croydon addresses that are in the London Borough of Croydon, and are west of the London-to-Brighton railway line, and south of Smitham Downs Road”) just have to complete a membership form and hand over their three quid.
But Morgan adds, in the manner of suburban Machiavelli, “If you live elsewhere, the committee need to approve your request.”
Which is something those who were on the CWRA committee until very recently maintain never happened in the case of east Coulsdon resident Peter Morgan.
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